Writing Bartholomew Tope

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With lyric as yet un-penned, I had a carte blanche to create a musical setting for our unpredictable, grubby Dickensian baddie. So I thought it might be fun to set Tope and his gang of thugs amidst the unlikely vehicle of a waltz – albeit with club feet, duly accented by a tea-chest bass and heavy bass drum. Our grubby characters signature motif is played on a Carynx – a large primitive woodwind instrument capable of producing a wonderful fart like tone. Add to the mix an occasional Uugh! from the boys in the gang and we were well on our way, harmonically leaping back and forth between major and minor in typically unpredictable ‘Topian’ manner. The Colla Voce middle section allows Tope to regail his back story to maximum dramatic effect before pressing on to a slap-spit conclusion.


Bartholomew Tope heads up the Tope smuggling gang. In the song, backed up by this gang, we set out his character and the sinister nature of the way he goes about his business. His mother died when he was born and his father blamed him, and physically abused Bartholomew as he grew up. Tope believes he has paid his dues, that might is right, and that if he’s the one importing goods, doing all the work, then why should he pay any duties to the crown. He believes he’s providing a noble service to the community. Steve Serlin captures Tope’s self-righteousness, but also his darker side. At this stage of the show, we want him to come across as a bit of a loveable rogue. Will that last, as there is an air of threat? It is envisaged that the song will be performed, on stage, with Tope and the gang singing direct to the audience, warning them, threatening them.

Turn aside your head
No telling what be said
Lest cudgel or stone
Be cracking your bone

Bartholomew Tope
I’s here for your pleasure
I answers your need

Turn aside your head

Bartholomew Tope
Purveyor of greed
What gives you cheering, my lads ‘ll take heed
Tell what you likes to my beauties
They be happy to gets and no duties
Avoiding thems cutters our smuggling creed

Lest cudgel or stone
Be cracking your bone
Look away the eye
The smugglers go by

Bartholomew Tope
We brings liquid measures
From France they be made

Look away the eye

Bartholomew Tope
A gent of free trade
Shipping the good stuff, we’s honestly paid
Brought here at my own expenses
All the people’s their wants my defences
The King and his excise we sure to evade

My formative years I can thanks for his righteous brutality
I now has the right to no longer be slave of frugality
But what of legality?
Keeps your morality
Mine came by fist
And I soon got the gist
Thank, my father’s teaching hand
Schooled me hard now I understand
Law be a punch and a boot kick
Judgement met out with a nail stick

Turn aside your head
No telling what be said

Bartholomew Tope
Our imports endeavour
We’s come quite renowned

Turn aside your head

Bartholomew Tope
Why give to the crown
Thems far away not your shillin an’ pound
Revenue men asks a question
Then best not to have recollection
As many’s the blabber who’s tragically drowned

Aside now your head
No telling what said
Cudgel and stone
Cracking your bone

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